Cartridge of the Week, the .270 Winchester

Who was your favorite Beatle? Paul, John, Ringo or that other guy? To me that other guy was the quiet talent behind all the others, George Harrison. That theory is true with our next cartridge. Other cartridges are better known: the .308 Winchester, the 30-06 Springfield and the .223 Remington. However, the the .270 Winchester  may be the best of all.

The .270 Winchester
This cartridge is not a new player to the game. It was designed in 1925 for the Winchester Model 54 bolt-action rifle. At the time its range was even outdoing the venerable .30-06. To be fully honest it is just a necked down .30-06, but with the lighter bullet it becomes a much more flat-shooting round and the distance is increased.

Winchester Model 54 Bolt Action Rifle in .270 Winchester
As a military cartridge, it never made a showing. I am very surprised by this fact. I have shot the Springfield .30-06, .308 Winchester and the .270 Winchester and find the ballistics of the .270 to be as good, if not better, than its two more well-known cousins. There are few military applications that this cartridge cannot meet the need. In fact, the up and coming mid-length tactical cartridge and I believe a possible replacement to the 5.56×45, the Remington 6.8 Special Purpose (6.8 SPC) is but a .270 caliber bullet in a shorter case. Nevertheless, the .270 Winchester never made a showing on the formal battlefields.

The George Harrison of Cartridges
However, this very velocity has been the source of gun enthusiast’s arguments for almost a century. We in the gun world will always find something to fight about, the .45 ACP versus the 9mm or AR-15 versus AK-47 to cite a few of classic ones I read daily on blogs and social media. The argument in favor of the .270 Winchester is lighter, faster bullet and thus a flat shooting trajectory; does one gain anything over the parent cartridge the .30-06? I will not engage that one. To be very honest and as simplistic as possible, guns are tools. Like all tools, the best one for the job and the one you can shoot well and put the biscuit in the basket is the best one ever made. What do I own? All at one time or another. As far as hunting goes, I prefer the .308 and .270 Winchester calibers. This is not a performance issue. I do not care for the recoil of the .30-06 in that I have a smaller frame and my follow-up shot with the other two is better. I have hunted with all three as well as with numerous other cartridges. Selecting the proper gun and caliber for the intended application is the key to success in all shooting engagements.

Pronghorn Antelope
In the right .270 rifle, this cartridge is more then enough for most big game and varmints in North America. It is also used in Africa for many game applications. However, its true attractiveness is a long shot requiring a flat trajectory. For my purposes, it has been a great caliber for coyotes and antelope. I believe that mountain goats or sheep would be another although I have yet to experience that opportunity.

I have always enjoyed quiet, simple and unassuming perfection. Much like the quiet Beatle this cartridge does not seek the limelight. Nevertheless, those who have used it, and understand its simple perfection, will never give up on this humble performer.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  1. I used to own and hunt with a Herters .264 Win Magnum. While it was an impressive looking and sounding rifle, with enormous recoil. I never could hit a dang thing with it, no matter what. I got to hate that rife. While on the range with a friend, he showed me an old Savage 110 in .270 Win caliber. Watching him shoot it was impressive as he hit the mark every time and with very tight groups. He let me shoot it, and I knew I just had to have one after that. It was the most accurate, flat shooting rifle I had ever encountered up to that time. Still is!

  2. All great comments, and I understand the ballistic info rings true. I never had a .270 or a .308, but did fire my best friend’s Remington 700 in .270 at the range years ago, and loved it. The gun was accurate and comfortable, but the recoil was about non-existant compared to my 740 in 30.06 which I could never hit anything with. After doing a trigger job which didn’t help, I finally determined the bedding was off. The tension on the double threaded sleeve in the fore end needed adjusting. Finally, I had it shooting, then traded it for a 788 in 6mm Rem. Killed lots of Deer, and Fox, and even a huge female Coyote with it. Still have it. Then, after a couple of years, I bought a nice used Savage 111 Chieftain in 30.06. I loved that gun, you guys talkin’ about 110s in .270 make me think of it. Mine got stolen after several years and many more Deer. Now I have a 742 ADL in 30.06 that I’ve never shot. I inherited it from my deceased father-in-law. I really don’t hunt anymore, but now I’d love to have a nice accurate bolt action in .308, and a SOCOM 16 Springfield. Hopefully, I can fulfill that wish in the not too distant future. Damn, Kicknbak I know exactly how you feel. This is a short post for me, and more than 2 or 3 times I’ve done the same thing with one three times as long as this one. Somehow, all those hours of patience freezin’ my ass off sittin on a limb with a branch pokin’ my back seems to help when it’s time to say Sh9%T a couple of times, and start re-typing.

  3. I have a savage 110in.270 and love it. I have never trailed a deer. With good old Hornady BTSP in 140 grain I have never had a deer walk one step. That’s enough said for a caliber. Don’t care about all the ballistic stuff (which I do like) this caliber is great for what it comes out of the case for! Meat is always in tHe freezer! Long live this great caliber!

  4. look, i have been shooting the .270 for years. i own a remington model 700, with a simmons 3x9x40 and i have to tell you, that rifle has out shot every single rifle i have ever put it up against. my best shot with that rifle was at 650 yards. saw the deer in the scope, lifted and adjusted, took the shot. hit, the deer raised up on its hind legs, took 2 steps fell down dead as a door nail. I relise the shot i took was at extreme range for my equipment, but the cartridge delivered. like the author of this article said, Perfection, quiet and humble.

  5. A good recoil pad like the ones currently being furnished on Savage rifles ‘significantly’ reduces the felt recoil on their 30-06’s & when used with a 150 gr bullet will tame the recoil on a 30-06 down to as good or better than that of a standard .270 rifle. I can’t tell much difference in the recoil of my new Savage 30-06 from that of my S&W 5.56 M&P AR.

    There are 30-06 150 gr bullets that will give a similar ballistic performance to that of a .270. But you can’t increase a .270’s bullet’s performance to match that of a heavier 30-06 180 gr or larger bullet…. to a .308 maybe, but not a heavier 30-06 bullet. I’ll stick with my 30-06, as it is much more versitle for a wide range of game. Coyotes, hogs, deer, elk, bear and more… that way I’ve just gotta change bullet weights, not the rifle caliber.

  6. the .270 has just two real world draw backs, one of them due to it being a late comer to the military trials. The .30 caliber was around well before the development of the .270, so the number of projectiles to work with, the barrels and rifling twist characteristics were well known. It became the natural caliber to work with. This lead to the first drawback of the .270, bullet design. There were already proven designs in place for the .30, and multiple .30 caliber rounds, from the 300 savage to the 30 us (.30-40 kraig), so the demand for that specific bullet meant the supply was greater.
    The second inherent drawback with the .270 is one that simply can not be over come due to the laws of physics. And that it the maximum bullet weight. The .270 will always be limited to weighing less than an equivalent .30 bullet of equal length, and the length of the round is what determines it’s ability to stabilize in flight to the target, which inturn means the kinetic energy for a given velocity will always be greater with the .30 caliber round. Yes it can be argued the .270 can be loaded to go faster, however the lighter round did not have the greater ability to pierce armor, and other already proven advantages of the time. In short there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
    Which is really better? What are you doing with it? What type of ammo are you using? Realistically there is no discernable difference based on bullet weight, as they both drop at the same rate per grain per fps… the “flatter shooting” myth does not take this into consideration. Smaller calibers are only flatter shooting as they are lighter.

  7. I have a older Savage Model 110 chambered in 270 and I love it. It was actually a garage sale gun so it was also quite a bargain. I have taken feral hogs, white tail dear and turkeys with this gun. It has never failed me and I love the cartridge. My longest measured shot was on a white tail buck. I was under a mesquite bush, steadied on a branch right at dusk and took the shot. It measured 285 yds and was a clean almost instant kill.

  8. The biggest advantage isn’t in power due to higher velocity OR reduced recoil…

    The flatter trajectory makes for a higher probability of a humane kill…

    A typical 150gr load will shoot about an inch high at 100U and less than 7 inches low at 300Y… sighted in at 100

    Holding dead on the vitals of any big game animal will pretty much guarantee a good hit.

    Sighting in zeroed at 250 can even improve on that… putting the bullet 2″ high at 150 and 5 low at 320…. making for a WIDE point blank range… (That’s the range you can hold right on target without compensating for distance/trajectory for those unfamiliar with the term)

    Eliminating the need for a range finder or complicated bullet drop compensating optics is just a secondary perk…

  9. Had a big comment all typed out and lost it. Got any idea where I should look for it?
    Nope, it’s not there… 😉

  10. Hi Allen,
    There you go again, hitting on something so close to home over here. Have you been visiting when I’m not home? 😉 While I have never fired the .270 Winchester, I have one very similar to it, and fits right in the grouping of calibers you mention. Like many, I am the proud owner of my granddaddy’s Winchester, another of the quiet, yet persuasive voices in the “W” stable. It’s the 1894 Model, and was actually made in the 1800s. It sort of edges toward being a rarity as it’s one of the ‘lever Action’, ‘hex barrel’, ‘long tom’, and really isn’t one of those rifles you would want to carry all day long. It will make your arches bark and your shoulders ache. The original reports I read on it weren’t that great as it was said to drop off in the distance shots. It must have been that old ammo, as the reports I read on it today are shiny, 2100 fps, and as high as 2400 fps in 200 yards. To me that says it’s a fairly big hammer. It is proudly displayed in a place of honor. I’ve written the life story about it, but haven’t done anything with it yet as far as getting it published. Here’s a pic.
    Thanks for your great blog, I wonder what it will be next. Roger

  11. I have a Remington 760 pump in .270, & I’ve been shooting it for 40+ yrs. redfield lo-pro 3x9x40, 1 shot, 1 deer down. Every year I shoot it in with 1 shot to clear the oil, 2 more to ensure the scope’s still on. Bullet hits right where I want at 250yds. No wasted meat on our small hill country deer. Good call on a great round.

  12. One of my favorite cartridges! I have been using one since I was a boy, and have always loved how well they shoot. Many a deer and coyote has been taken with my Savage 110 in .270, and I hope that continues!

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